SPREAD THE WEALTH
Helaine Olen is a veteran personal
fnance journalist, the author of
Pound Foolish: Exposing the
Dark Side of the Personal Finance
Industry, and the co-author of The
Index Card: Why Personal Finance
Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated.
Cook Up a Company Retreat
Even if you’re on a budget,
invest in taking your employees
outside the office
some of the primary drivers of growth for corporate
junkets, according to the American Express Global
Business Travel unit.
When done right, a retreat can pay of with
better employee morale and increased engagement.
But retreats are an investment of time and money:
You’ll lose hours or days of your employees’ labor,
and you’ll need to pay for what they’re doing
instead. If you absolutely need to keep costs down,
you could get away with a brown-bag lunch and
a day of activities in the ofce for a little more than
$20 a head, says Marilyn Suttle, a career coach
and retreat facilitator.
Yet most agree you’ll get the best long-term
results if you can gather employees of-site. “It
shifts people out of automatic pilot and keeps away
distractions,” Suttle says. You can do this in your
home city, of course; if you want to splurge for
travel and overnight accommodations, expect to
spend at least four fgures per attendee.
Once you’ve set your budget, what can you
do to ensure you get the most bang for your buck?
For starters, pick one or two areas to focus on
during the retreat. For Goldin, that was bringing
her employees—many of whom work remotely—
Ben Brooks, the founder and CEO of employee-
As he’s learned, play goes a long way. At Button’s regular Hamptons retreats, employees do a
engagement service Pilot, picks tasks for his
workers to complete during retreats. “I think of
them as a hackathon for nontechnical people,”
Still, be careful not to cram too much into your retreat. When the meter is running, it’s
tempting to keep your employees busy. But that defeats the purpose of getting away from the
ofce. “If you’re just herding a mass of people through a rigorous schedule, they’ll go home
after it’s over and not engage,” says Stephen Milbank, co-founder of business-to-business tech-
nology startup Button.
team cook-of, preparing meals on a tight budget. The results have ranged from burgers and pizza
to elaborate three-course meals—and helped Button’s bosses see how their employees work.
“We set a maximum spending limit for food but did not address bartering or foraging,”
Milbank says of the cook-ofs. “Some saw the rules as defned borders, while others saw the rules
as a jumping-of point for creativity. The competition helped me understand the types of envi-
ronments diferent team members need to thrive.” That’s what I call a recipe for retreat success.
49 employees to Scottsdale, Arizona, where they spent half a week
hiking, whitewater rafting, and having other outdoor fun.
There was an immediate payof, says Goldin. “People jumped
MONEY 74 - INC. - FEBRUAR Y 2017
right back into work when it was over,” she recalls. “And then on the
weekly conference calls, people were communicating more.”
The Hint feld trip helps explain why, after falling into disfavor
among bean counters during the Great Recession, the company-retreat
business is on an upswing. While few estimates exist for the overall
size of the industry, hotel executives as well as retreat facilitators say
it is growing rapidly. Employee training and team meetings are now